On the nature and causes of artists’ autonomy

26.10.23 EEAD
30.10.23 ESAD.CR

The economics of the visual artist and how their financial reality determines their work and production

Main Researcher

Isabel Baraona


26.10.23 EEAD
30.10.23 ESAD.CR

The event “On the nature and causes of artists’ autonomy” aimed to problematize the visual artist’s economy and how their financial reality determines their performance and production. More specifically, it aimed to discuss the nature(s) and cause(s) of the visual artist’s economic reality in the Portuguese context and, with this, to promote reflection on their power to act culturally, socially and politically.

The autonomy/economy of the visual artist is a structural theme in artistic practice that originated in the 18th century, when there was a split between art and craft, or between the figures of the artist and the craftsman. The new condition of patron autonomy brought new challenges in terms of the artist’s way of working and surviving. This cultural change was accentuated from Modernism onwards with the incorporation and legitimization of new ways of working for the artist, whose activity expanded into the areas of curating, criticism, theorizing, production, mediation, and education, while at the same time developing collaborative and participatory artistic practices.

In this way, we try to address the following questions: How is the financial autonomy of the visual artist constructed in the Portuguese context? What relationships can be established between art and economics from the visual artist’s perspective? How does the contemporary visual artist work? How are institutional support relationships established; How does the art market work? How can the precariousness of the visual artist be overcome?

In this context, concepts of economy, market, production value, value of the work of art, institutional value, recognition, presentation, circulation, dissemination, precariousness, and autonomy, among others, were evoked and debated.




The seminar’s main target audience was visual arts students from the School of Architecture, Art and Design – EAAD at the University of Minho, as well as students from the School of Arts and Design, Caldas da Rainha at the Polytechnic of Leiria – ESAD. CR. It was also aimed at teachers and researchers in the field, and its hybrid format (face-to-face and online) also allows it to reach audiences other than the academic community.

The seminar lasted one day at each institution and will be integrated into some Curricular Units of the respective Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes.

This event was organised as part of EAAD’s Visual Arts Degree and ESAD.CR’s Master’s in Fine Arts. The event took place in the drawing amphitheatre, in room 09 of Ep.1.


Universidade do Minho - Escola de Arquitetura, Arte e Design

Politécnico de Leiria - Escola Superior de Artes e Design



This initiative was funded through the Pluriannual Funding of the Landscapes, Heritage and Territory Laboratory (Lab2PT), Ref. UID/04509/2020, financed by national funds (PIDDAC) through FCT/MCTES.